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The 20 Best Doctor of Physical Therapy Graduate Schools

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at GradSchoolCenter.com, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

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Updated: February 20, 2024, Reading time: 37 minutes

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Physical therapy plays an indispensable contribution not only to the medical world but to society in general. It is a profession specializing in restoring people’s ability to control and move parts of their bodies when afflicted by illness or injury.

If you are passionate about serving others and possess high levels of tolerance to stress, you are poised for success as a physical therapist! It is a growing field that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects to grow by 15% from 2022 to 2032.

This translates to an average of more than 37,300 physical therapist jobs per year for the same period. With that said, if you have the passion and goal to be a part of people’s journey to recovery, you should earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and be a licensed Physical Therapist.

A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is an advanced degree that prepares individuals to provide evidence-based, compassionate care for individuals of all ages who suffer from impairments, functional limitations, and pain. To obtain the degree, one must first hold a baccalaureate degree in a health-related field and then complete a 3-year professional program.

Through this program, physical therapists learn to evaluate patients, develop individualized treatment plans and goals, and implement a variety of interventions to restore and enhance physical function and improve quality of life.

In addition, physical therapists have the skills to assess risk for injury, make appropriate referrals to other healthcare professionals, and provide education and training for patients and caregivers. With a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, you will have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide outstanding care while helping others achieve a higher quality of life.

To begin, students participate in a doctorate in physical therapy degree program from an institution accredited by the CAPTE or the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. It’s the degree that will qualify you for a state licensure examination.

The Physical Therapist… a crucial profession in Healthcare:

Quick audio summary:

METHODOLOGY

Physical Therapy is an important discipline that helps people lead better, healthier, fully functioning lives. With a doctorate in this field, professionals become better equipped to deliver the services required by the job.

They become qualified for more opportunities at research-focused or executive levels in a variety of settings. Indeed, Doctors of Physical Therapy have the best career paths at their disposal.

Because finding the most suitable graduate program isn’t easy for most students, we compiled the best Online Doctorate in Physical Therapy schools offering them.

The factors considered in creating this list all point to academic excellence and overall student learning experience:


Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

20 BEST DOCTOR OF PHYSICAL THERAPY GRADUATE SCHOOLS

Regis University

Regis University

Denver, Colorado

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Regis University takes pride in its Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program that prepares students to become physical therapists of the modern generation. 

Standout Features of Regis University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

Regis University is committed to producing Doctor of Physical Therapy graduates who are motion and mobility experts and professionals who commit to improving people’s quality of life. They strive to make it possible by going beyond treating injuries and illnesses that limit their movement – they do it by treating the person as a whole.

Regis University has an on-campus physical therapy clinic that caters to students, university staff, and community members who need PT services.

University of Delaware

University of Delaware

Newark, DE

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) at the University of Delaware is a 2.5-year post-graduate education program. It aims to develop entry-level physical therapists into excellent and responsible professionals who integrate scientific knowledge into their clinical practice, 

Standout Features of the University of Delaware’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The Doctor of Physical Therapy at the University of Delaware intends to support the practice of physical therapy with an outstanding post-graduate education. The university’s commitment to using science in its desire to provide quality clinical services is the force that motivates its Department of Physical Therapy to produce outstanding researchers and leaders in the PT industry.

The University of Delaware is the Alma Mater of three graduates signatories to the US Declaration of Independence. 

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy

Ohio State University, located in Columbus, offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree, one of the best in the United States. The school’s state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and world-class faculty are among the factors that make their DPT program a cut above the rest.

Standout Features of Ohio State University’s Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy Program

The Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy program at Ohio State University can give you the privilege to obtain the competencies required for professional practice. All of these will be given to you through an innovative and comprehensive curriculum, a superb clinical experience, and world-class healthcare facilities.

All of Ohio State’s four regional campuses are tobacco-free.

University of California San Francisco

University of California San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The University of California San Francisco’s three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program entails a full-time theoretical presentation and 34 weeks of clinical experience. It aims to equip students, educators, and professionals with the knowledge and clinical reasoning skills they need to work effectively as physical therapists. 

Standout Features of the University of California San Francisco’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The University of California San Francisco is a pioneer in physical therapy programs in the country. Its years of existence and experience in molding students to become professional PT practitioners have made it one of the best PT schools in the US. 

Aside from focusing on theoretical and clinical studies, UCSF’s DPT program promotes a collaborative atmosphere where students help one another to succeed. Studying at UCSF can be a guarantee of learning the skills every physical therapist would need to succeed in the practice of their profession.

Among the ten campuses of the University of California system, the UCSF is the only campus devoted exclusively to health.

University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The University of Minnesota’s Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program aims to provide excellence in physical therapy education. It intends to equip you with knowledge, outstanding PT skills, leadership, and altruistic qualities to serve a diverse society effectively. 

Standout Features of the University of Minnesota’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

At the University of Minnesota’s DPT program, students are always encouraged to think, act, and project the physical therapy profession. Their graduates are flexible, confident, and service-oriented practitioners. They exercise ethical values and critical thinking to uphold the well-being of their clients and foster professionalism in their practice. They are all mentored by clinical educators who are committed to improving the quality of life of people throughout the world.

Dr. Clarence Walton Lillehei, an American surgeon and pioneer of open-heart surgery, was a graduate of the University of Minnesota

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Birmingham, AL

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program that The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers equips students to deliver excellent patient-centered physical therapy services to people at all levels of society.

Standout Features of the University of Alabama at Birmingham – Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The University of Alabama’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program has more than 50 years of experience delivering outstanding education and innovative experiences. It is the first DPT program in the region to be ranked as one of the best in the United States. 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is America’s first university in the southeastern region to offer a Physical Therapy and Doctor of Physical Therapy program. 

University of Southern California

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The University of Southern California’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy offers a traditional and hybrid online Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program. This degree is known to exceed minimum educational requirements. It guarantees to prepare you for an excellent professional career in physical therapy.

Standout Features of the University of Southern California’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The University of Southern California’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program consists of a distinguished faculty and cutting-edge facilities. Its mentors are composed of renowned scientists and clinicians committed to providing students with the knowledge and skills to deliver evidence-based and patient-centered physical therapy. 

The University of Southern California is America’s only university that earned gold medal-winning athletes in every summer Olympiad since 1912.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University

San Francisco, CA

Doctor of Physical Therapy

San Francisco State University offers an entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program to prepare students to become leaders in the physical therapy industry. It aims to equip students with theoretical knowledge in medical and applied sciences and critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and problem-solving skills to allow them to do their jobs.

Standout Features of San Francisco State University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The DPT program at San Francisco State University is best suited for students who seek a career in rehabilitation medicine. Its clinical experiences are delivered through the university’s affiliated sites througout the state of California.  

San Francisco University was formerly San Francisco State Normal School. It was the first normal school in the country to require a high school diploma from students who wished to enroll.

University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The University of Pittsburg offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program designed to give students the latest clinical and scientific knowledge about rehabilitation medicine. It also aims to develop student confidence and professionalism to assume leadership positions in the healthcare industry.

Aside from its traditional on-campus curriculum, the university also offers courses delivered through a hybrid format. It is a combination of traditional on-campus and online methods of conducting instructions.

Standout Features of the University of Pittsburg’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

As a student of the University of Pittsburg’s Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, you will develop skills, knowledge, and confidence to provide care and treatment to patients. You will receive this learning from the start of the program until you begin your profession as a registered physical therapist. 

The University’s DPT program aims to provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in the program and excel as a PT professional.

The castle-like tower in Pittsburg is the university’s Castle of Learning. It is the second-tallest university structure in the world.

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis

St. Louis, MO

Doctor of Physical Therapy

At Washington University School of Medicine, the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program is a professional, full-time clinical doctorate course of study. It prepares students for the practice of physical therapy. It prepares you for leadership positions in your organization or community. 

Standout Features of Washington University in St. Louis’ Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The Doctor of Physical Therapy at Washington University aims to provide students with an advanced approach to the science of movement. It focuses on making you understand how improper movement causes injury and impairs people’s ability to move. The university strives to produce highly sought-after physical therapists who have a high potential for PT field success.   

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, located within the Washington University in St. Louis, is one of the United States’ oldest teaching museums. It was established in 1881.

University of Washington-Seattle

University of Washington - Seattle

Seattle, WA

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy at the University of Washington-Seattle aims to produce graduates with exceptional knowledge and skills as generalists in physical therapy.

Standout Features of the University of Washington Seattle’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The University of Washington hosts one of the best institutions for rehabilitation medicine in the United States. Its Doctor of Physical Therapy program is one of the best in the country. It has proven time and time again its capability to produce outstanding graduates, which include:

These feats are made possible by the UW faculty of renowned researchers and clinicians who excel in rehabilitation medicine. On top of these, the University of Washington is your key to getting access to more than 400 clinical sites – to provide you with a rich clinical learning experience.

Willard Geer, a 1927 physics graduate from the University of Washington, invented the color television process.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Chicago, IL

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy at Northwestern University is one of the largest physical therapy programs in the United States. Its size, location, and facilities allow the university to provide its students with unparalleled resources for learning. It builds the student’s confidence to lead in a competitive healthcare marketplace.

Standout Features of Northwestern University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

Northwestern University has several reasons to show why it is one of the best Doctor of Physical Therapy Schools in the country. These are:

Northwestern University’s Dance Marathon (NUDM) is the largest student-run charity event run by students. It has raised more than $16M since its launch in 1975. 

University of Iowa

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at the University of Iowa is a program that strives to teach evidence-based practice to its students. It aims to equip students with problem-solving, critical thinking, and clinical reasoning skills to allow them to provide excellent patient care and assume leadership responsibilities in the field of professional therapy.

Standout Features of the University of Iowa’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The Doctor of Physical Therapy at the University of Iowa is a top-ranking PT program in the United States. Its tradition of excellence started in 1942 and has consistently produced outstanding PT graduates, including a licensure pass rate of 100 percent.

The University of Iowa was the first American school to officially endorse an LGBT student group in 1970.

Duke University

Duke University

Durham, NC

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy of Duke University is a program designed to produce outstanding Physical Therapy professionals. The university makes it possible with excellent mentoring, cutting-edge research, and evidence-based clinical practice.

Standout Features of Duke University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

As an outstanding physical therapy training program, Duke University’s DPT is synonymous with rigorous academic training and comprehensive clinical experiences. It guarantees a high potential for success in the PT field. The university’s pass rate for the 2018-2019 licensure exams was 100%, and its 2016-2018 post-graduation employment rate was 100%. 

With an innovative curriculum, expert faculty, and extensive clinical internships, you can be certain of a rewarding career if you graduate from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Duke University.

The athletes of Duke University are not only excellent in their sports, but They are also among the top-performing athletes in academics in the country.

New York University Steinhardt

New York University Steinhardt

New York, NY

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) at New York University Steinhardt is an entry-level program. It aims to equip students with knowledge and skills through rigorous core courses and supervised clinical practice.

Standout Features of New York University Steinhardt’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

Since its inception, New York University Steinhardt’s Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program has been at the forefront of physical therapy education. Its courses are mentored by renowned leaders in the PT industry. Among the university’s DPT faculty members are a former president of the prestigious American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and an editor of the American Physical Therapy Association journal. The knowledge, skills, and experience you’ll get from New York University Steinhardt can be your key to a rewarding PT career.

The fastest computer in the city of New York sits at New York University. 

Creighton University Omaha

Creighton University Omaha

Omaha, Nebraska

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Creighton University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program is a benchmark that every PT program in the US tries to emulate. One of its main objectives is to produce competent and compassionate Physical Therapy professionals who rely on evidence as a basis for their decisions.

Standout Features of Creighton University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Creighton University is staffed by a nationally recognized faculty. It is committed to providing leadership within the PT profession and delivering expertise in specific focus areas, including research, practice, and clinical reasoning. Student learning experience and educator and student relationships are among the university’s greatest elements in high regard.

Creighton University Omaha’s Doctor of Physical Therapy is the first DPT program in the United States!

Arcadia University

Arcadia University

Glenside, PA

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Arcadia University is offering a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. This post-graduate program aims to provide students with behavioral, clinical, and critical thinking knowledge to apply to the healthcare industry.

Standout Features of Arcadia University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

Arcadia University is offering a  Doctor of Physical Therapy program that adheres to the American Physical Therapy Association standards. It produces graduates surpassing the licensure examination’s national passing average on their first attempt. 

The Grey Towers Castle of Arcadia University is a National Historic Landmark. This structure is surrounded by unlimited stories of ghosts, secret passages, and tunnels.

University of Miami

University of Miami

Coral Gables, FL

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The University of Miami is offering a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program. It is designed for bachelor’s degree graduates who desire to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy and embark on a career in the modern era. It is a top-rank clinical program in the United States.

Standout Features of the University of Miami’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

To produce brilliant and highly competent physical therapy professionals, the DPT degree program of the University of Miami features advanced clinical training through residency programs in six major areas of focus: 

The residency faculty of the university is a leader in physical therapy programs across the US. They are committed to providing students with knowledge and skills that demonstrate their proficiency in patient care and clinical reasoning, and judgment in the practice of physical therapy.

Action stars Dwayne Johnson and Sylvester Stallone both studied at the University of Miami.

Kansas University Medical Center

University of Kansas Medical Center School of Medicine

Kansas City, KS

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Kansas University Medical Center is designed to provide students with skills in physical therapy that could be applied to the clinical world.

Standout Features of Kansas University Medical Center’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

Kansas University Medical Center is committed to developing students into experts and caring medical therapists who will embody the ideals of the profession. Its Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program is for individuals who aspire to improve the human quality of life by helping people achieve optimized movement and functional potential.

Kansas University graduates have made a lot of important discoveries in medical science, including the discovery of Vitamins A and D.

Alabama State University

Alabama State University

Montgomery, AL

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Alabama State University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program educates students to accomplish a specific goal: Improve people’s health and well-being in underserved regions where the students come from.

Standout Features of Alabama State University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program

The physical therapy program of Alabama State University provides students with a supportive environment. It is designed to offer students sound mentorship and advice to ensure that they will have the opportunity to have access to the information and tools needed to learn their craft.

Today, Alabama State University is a highly respected institution of higher learning. It started with only $500 raised by nine freed slaves.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy, as a branch of rehabilitative care, utilizes equipment and methods specially designed to restore or improve the physical abilities of injured or sick individuals. It is intended for adults whose movements are impaired due to stroke, injury, or other illnesses and infants with congenital musculoskeletal disabilities.

What is a Doctor of Physical Therapy?

A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a three-to-four-year post-baccalaureate degree that you can earn upon completing a duly accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Graduates of a Master of Physical Therapy degree may pursue a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree to qualify for the licensing exams for physical therapists in all 50 states.

To qualify for admission to a DPT program, prospective students need to earn a bachelor’s degree and complete specific coursework, and clinical education experience, including Anatomy, Biology, and Physiology. 

Best Doctor of Physical Therapy - fact

What’s the difference between a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy degree?

Once you decide to take the path leading to a degree in physical therapy, you should know that it has two doctorate programs. These are the Doctor of Physical Therapy and the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy. While both degrees refer to the same subject, they’re not the same, and you need to identify their differences. 

As a clinical doctorate program, the Doctor of Physical Therapy program qualifies you to sit in the National Physical Therapy Examination, a major requirement for obtaining a PT license. 

The Ph.D. in Physical Therapy, on the other hand, is a philosophical doctorate. It’s the program that leads to a Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy. It’s the degree you need to become a university professor. 

So there you go. This information should help to give you a clear and definite direction for your goal. 

What factors should I consider when seeking a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program?

There are lots of schools that offer the DPT program, but they’re not equal. When looking for a competent DPT school, you should consider a lot of factors, including:

Do I need physical strength myself to excel as a Physical Therapist?

No, you do not need to be physically strong yourself necessarily to excel as a Physical Therapist. Although strength and body mechanics can help with treatments and diagnosing a patient’s condition, physical therapists must also possess strong communication and problem-solving skills.

Ultimately, the success of physical therapists depends on their ability to accurately assess patient needs and provide individualized, patient-centered care.

What careers can a Doctor of Physical Therapy Graduate pursue?

As projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thousands of jobs nationwide are available for physical therapists in various settings upon successful completion of their graduate program. These include hospitals, outpatient clinics, sports training and fitness centers, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, nursing care facilities, patient homes, and schools. Some choose to begin their own physical therapy practice.

There is a big demand for physical therapists in the US Millions of Americans need the help of physical therapists every day to alleviate their pain or restore their functional limitations resulting from an illness or injury. Physical therapists play a major role in rehabilitation services as they ensure the overall fitness of affected individuals. It is an essential element in people’s quest for a better quality of life.

As a physical therapist, your knowledge and skills are needed for leadership roles in developing and delivering healthcare policies and programs for your organization or community.


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